Sometimes history can be heavy.
Demolition of the former First Christian Church located at 501 Central Ave. in Dunkirk took place in mid-October. Brooks Memorial Hospital will be using the land where the church stood for additional parking. After the demolition, much debris had to be cleared, including bricks, pieces of wood, and bicycle parts. One item that stood out among the rubble was the cornerstone that reads Church of Christ 1903-1925.
When the surface was graded, the cornerstone was saved and pushed to the side near Central Avenue where it stayed until recently.
OBSERVER Photo by Diane R. Chodan
When Lake Erie Regional Health System (Brooks Memorial Hospital) demolished the former First Christian Church on 501 Central Ave. this piece of history was left. It was pushed to the side at the demolition site and stayed there for a few weeks while historical society and hospital personnel discussed the matter.
Even though its historical significance was recognized, there was no easy answer to where the item could go.
According to Scott Butler, Vice President of Community Relations/Marketing for Lake Erie Regional Health System of New York (of which Brooks Memorial Hospital in Dunkirk is a part), the hospital does intend to create a small "green space" using a hitching post saved from the house that served as a parsonage for the church. However, the cornerstone is large and heavy and the small area might not accommodate it.
The Dunkirk Historical Society was interested in preserving a piece of history, and Brooks Hospital was willing to give them the cornerstone. Society President Diane Andrasik said, "The biggest problem was the weight. It is a solid piece."
Andrasik confirmed that there is no time capsule in the cornerstone. However the stone is in excellent shape with the words Church of Christ and the dates 1903-1925 carved into it.
Discussions continued with Butler who Andrasik said was "instrumental" in the process of giving it to the historical society. There was discussion within the society concerning how the item could be transported to the historical society and where it might go.
The historical society turned to the City of Dunkirk for help. Andrasik expressed her thanks to Mayor A.J. Dolce and Public Works Director Anthony Gugino and his staff for helping the society move the cornerstone and store it.
Gugino said, "It was heavy. Three park employees worked to move it, using a bucket (machine)." He explained that they used belts to secure the cornerstone, because they did not want to damage it. Currently, the cornerstone is stored in the city barn on a pallet, so that it will not be exposed to the winter weather.
Andrasik said this is the best place for now. Because of the weight of the cornerstone, she was afraid it would sink into the mud if left outside the historical society's building.
Rosalee Owen, a former member and secretary of the First Christian Church, said that she plans to meet with Andrasik in the near future. While most of the records were sent to Indiana when the church closed, she and some other members have other items that might be interesting as well as memories of the buildings.
Andrasik hopes there will be an opportunity to create an exhibit.
Jonathan Lawrence, President and Chief Operating Office of Lake Erie Regional Health System of New York, said, "Brooks Memorial Hospital appreciates this opportunity to contribute to the important work undertaken by the Dunkirk Historical Society to preserve the architectural and cultural history of our community. We are most grateful for their interest and assistance in this collaborative effort."
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